I love Mexican food, but at the risk of imposing purist definitions on a cuisine that is anything but, most "Mexican" food around here could more properly be categorized as Tex-Mex. So when I learned I'd be paying a visit to Poblano's Family Mexican Restaurant, I was skeptical.
Tex-Mex, a distinct cuisine in its own right, is a borderland blend of native Mexican, Spanish and North American culinary enterprises. Restaurateurs elsewhere have embraced the distinction.
Poblano's, perpetuating the local terminology, bills itself as Mexican. Its stucco and mission styling, rough-hewn wood booths and low lighting shout Tex-Mex. The menu? Chips and salsa on every table, burritos, an emphasis on meat, beans, combination plates and chili gravies. Classic Tex-Mex. Nothing wrong with that if you love Tex-Mex. I tend to lean toward the Mex end of this culinary spectrum.
Still, I ended up mostly liking Poblano's for what it is. Scooping fresh salsa the usual kind and a tangy, tomatillo green with warm chips at lunch, my guest and I chatted with our friendly server. In short order, my delicate tamale with carnitas and my guest's shredded chicken burrito were whisked to the table (both $8.95). In both cases, the meats were tender and well-seasoned and the refried beans were obviously fresh, not canned.
Entres come smothered in one of three sauces hot oaxaquea, green chili or mole. We tried the first two, and they rated well.
A later visit for dinner produced mixed reactions. The guacamole appetizer? Everything you'd expect short of tableside for $6.95, a fair price given the quantity. The shrimp cocktail whets the appetite with its Mexican-style cocktail sauce, made of pico and catsup (and perhaps a hint of horseradish?) Savor the fresh chilled shrimp while they last. For your $6.95, you get only four of them.
My Pollo Mole, surprisingly moist and tender for a grilled breast, came smothered, not the traditional long-simmered in its rich chocolaty gravy. Poblano's mole is thick and pleasing, but I tasted mostly chocolate, not the complex blend of dozens of ingredients that usually marks this profound flavor profile. My husband's skirt steak (combo, $11.95), cooked medium rare as requested, boasted well-rounded beef flavor enhanced by just the right amount of seasoning. His chili relleno, drenched in pork green chili, rated average.
As for the fajitas, that Tex-Mex classic? Poblano's features skillets of onions, peppers and skirt steak strips (or chicken, shrimp or veggies) with all the accoutrements for $10.95 on Tuesdays (regularly $13.95). Ours arrived feebly sizzling, the veggies languishing. My dinner guest, a bit of a fajita connoisseur, offered his verdict with a shrug, "about average."
For dessert, I recommend the "flan brulee" (served in the French style) and the sopapillas (each $2.95), but tell them to hold chocolate and strawberry syrups and whipped cream, mysterious embellishments for Mexican sweets. The sopapillas didn't need it, and it didn't render my tres leche cake or the fried ice cream any better than they were not bad, not great.
As Mexican, Poblano's didn't wow me, but it's among the better Tex-Mex establishments I've tried around here. Worth a 20-minute drive east for Tex-Mex fans and no doubt a welcome addition to the Falcon area.